Why You Should Cook a Bronze Turkey This Thanksgiving, Says Farmer

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October 26, 2022
roasted bronze turkey in a serving dish on a Thanksgiving table
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Yes, it’s true — you can buy different color turkeys. With the most popular turkey-eating holiday rolling around, it’s important to keep in mind the type of bird you buy for the big event. Turkeys sold at the grocery store are typically broad-breasted white turkeys, also known just as white turkeys. Sure, these turkeys are easy to access during this time of year, but they don’t exactly ensure a tasty eating experience for Thanksgiving day.

The bronze turkey, however, is a completely different story. Unlike commercial white turkeys, which are typically covered in white feathers, the standard bronze turkey has darker brown feathers. And yet, while the feathers help to differentiate the type of bird, according to Paul Kelly, Managing Director of KellyBronze, the color isn’t important when it comes to the taste of the turkey. It all has to do with the harvesting.

Between the easy roasting process and the flavorful, finished bird, here’s why it may be worth roasting a bronze turkey for your Thanksgiving table this year.

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Bronze turkeys are aged for a longer time.

Compared to a white turkey, a bronze turkey grows much slower and is even given time to age. According to Kelly, a slow-growing bronze breed (such as the KellyBronze turkey) is harvested at six months. This timeline is completely different from the commercial white turkey, which is only given around 12 weeks. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says a turkey needs four or five months to reach full maturity, typical commercial white turkeys won’t even reach maturity before harvesting.

Plus, keep in mind that while some commercial white turkeys will be advertised as “young,” any turkey harvested before the eight-month mark is considered young by the USDA. So even if a turkey is marketed as “young” at the store, it doesn’t ensure that the finished roasted bird will be tastier than the rest.

Bronze turkeys typically have more flavor.

While consumers generally go for a commercial white turkey for their Thanksgiving table, because the turkey wasn’t given enough time to reach maturity, it can actually compromise the juiciness and flavor. According to Kelly, the older the bird, the better.

“A mature heritage breed bronze turkey has intramuscular fat to self-baste the meat and fully developed carcass with deposition and bone marrow to produce a wonderful natural stock,” he says. “Simply roasting this bird is all it needs.”

To ensure the best flavor profile, KellyBronze turkeys are also dry-aged after they are harvested in order to tenderize the meat. This is not a typical practice for standard turkeys. Between the lack of maturity and dry aging, a commercial white turkey won’t have the same taste profile as a bronze turkey, resulting in a dry, flavorless bird.

Bronze turkeys are easier (and faster) to cook.

There’s a reason why people hesitate to take on the responsibility of roasting the turkey—it just never seems to go right. Whether it’s waking up at the crack of dawn to start roasting it, brining it for days before, or having to baste it every half hour to ensure the bird still has some flavor, cooking the turkey on Thanksgiving sounds like a feat only a chef should actually handle.

A typical white turkey would need this kind of “fussing,” as Kelly says.

“If you are cooking a commercial white turkey, it will not be mature in age and therefore have little or no fat deposition or marbling in the meat,” he says. “It will therefore need help to put moisture and flavor into the meat with either brining or basting using your favorite recipe.”

Plus, because a white turkey doesn’t have as much intramuscular fat, it generally takes longer to cook. This means your oven will be occupied by a roasting turkey for hours on end, leaving you no room to get those casseroles and roasted veggies in the oven when you need them.

Related: 5 Thanksgiving Kitchen Tools That Take the Stress Out of Cooking

A bronze turkey, however, is much faster and easier to cook. The maturing and dry aging process help to build up that intramuscular fat for the bird, giving it more flavor, and saving you time from having to brine and baste the bird all day long.

In fact, a KellyBronze turkey can actually cook in half the amount of time; the smallest birds only need an hour. Kelly even recommends not fussing over the bird—a simple seasoning with salt and pepper will do just fine. If you want to roast some veggies on the side of the roasting pan (like onions and garlic) that can also add to the flavor profile, but it’s not necessary for roasting up a tasty, juicy bird.

Lastly, while many would say to stuff the cavity (or the skin) of the bird, and even truss (tie) the turkey legs together, Kelly says it isn’t necessary. In fact, it can cause an uneven roasting experience, and you’ll likely have to wait longer for your turkey to be done.

Bronze turkeys are generally smaller.

“White turkeys are the fast-growing commercial breed and the original bronze is less than half the size of its white feathered cousins,” says Kelly.

With a smaller turkey in the oven that requires less time to cook, you’ll have more time to cook up the rest of those delectable Thanksgiving sides.

Sure, a bronze turkey is smaller and a bit pricier than most commercial white turkey breeds. But when it comes to celebrating important holidays—like Thanksgiving and even Christmas—splurging on a tasty bird that requires zero fuss may be worth the investment.

But beware of the scammers! Kelly says there are companies out there that will put the bronze feather gene in commercial white turkeys in order to give it to market it as a “bronze feather” bird. This is much different than a standard bronze turkey, so be sure to research the farm the turkey is from before purchasing your bird this holiday.

Read next: 11 Trader Joe’s Thanksgiving Staples Nutritionists Love

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